Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Literary PSA: The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

Recently I decided to start a NEW THING: Literary Public Service Announcements. Essentially, I'm going to pimp a book that I read before I started blogging, but that I want to foist upon the world due to it's high levels of sheer awesomeness, for the good of the public and all that jazz. Instead of me just telling people over and over that they should read something "JUST BECAUSE!!!1!", I've decided to actually explain in a more eloquent fashion just why my favorite books are my favorites.

Last time on Literary Public Service Announcements: IF I STAY by Gayle Forman.
And now this week's PSA:

 The Year of Secret Assignments (Ashbury/Brookfield, #2)

 Three girls. Three boys. Two rival schools.
This could get messy.

The Ashbury-Brookfield pen pal program is designed to bring together the two rival schools in a spirit of harmony and "the Joy of the Envelope." But when Cassie, Lydia, and Emily send their first letters to Matthew, Charlie, and Sebastian, things don't go quite as planned. What starts out as a simple letter exchange soon leads to secret missions, false alarms, lock picking, mistaken identities, and an all-out war between the schools--not to mention some really excellent kissing. Goodreads

I LOVE Aussie YA, and this is probably my favorite Aussie book ever. It's told in letters, emails, texts, school notices, transcripts, diaries, etc., and actually makes me laugh out loud every time I read it. This is my absolute favorite epistolary-style novel EVER. Granted, it's a tough technique to pull off, so there aren't many. But seriously, it's flawless here.

Technically, it's the second in a loosely related series, but I've never read the first book, Feeling Sorry for Celia, so it's obviously not necessary. It's a contemporary, but it has so much spunk and whimsy and quirkiness that elevate it beyond your average realistic YA. What happens in this book would probably never happen in real life, but more's the pity for real life.

TYoSA follows three close-knit best friends attending the upper class Ashbury School: ditzy, bossy, enthusiastic Emily; whip-smart, reckless Lydia; and musical, fatherless Cassie. Tensions have grown between Ashbury and Brookfield, a local public school, and in an effort to ameliorate the tension, the two schools form a pen pal program. Obviously, this leads to shenanigans galore, such as false identities, make out sessions, pranks, secret assignments, and blind dates both successful and disastrous. There will be moments where you CHEER and FIST-BUMP, moments where you might tear up, and probably lengthy sessions where you pee yourself laughing. This book is a great blend of genres and feelings and, most of all, VOICES. All the characters have such distinct voices I'm kind of in awe. Nobody sounds alike. You get first person letters from the three girls and the three boys they write to, and yet it's never confusing.

The only thing that ever did confuse me about this book was basically my own stupidity. See, it's set in Australia, right? Which is in the Southern Hemisphere? And I live in the US, which (basic geography lesson for those tragically raised without globes) is in the Northern Hemisphere. Basically, our seasons are reversed. And the book is divided into sections by season, meaning all the months in my head were TOTALLY THROWN OFF. It's weird! You Aussies have Christmas in the middle of the summer! The school year starts in January! And you have all those weird Easter breaks and things! MINDBOGGLING.

Everything about you is glorious, Australia
...except that.

Anyway, that's obviously not relevant to the wondrousness inside TYoSA. These three vastly different best friends truly adore each other. It was lovely to read about. They're realistic and willing to do absolutely anything for each other. And when things start to go south for Cassie-- and I mean like CRAZY SOUTH-- Em, Lyd, and their awesome pen pals Charlie and Seb decide to do something about it. And it's such a convoluted mess of joy to watch. The plot, it twists and turns with all kinds of fun reveals and surprises. And there is quite literally four laughs a page. Lydia is my favorite. She's a total lunatic in the best way possible. Em is a particular treat as well. She's prone to malaprops and aspires to be a lawyer despite the fact that she's not the brightest bulb. All the characters are varied and complex. They come from different backgrounds and walks of life, and though they can clash, in the end they all come together beautifully. Except for SPOILER. That SPOILER is such a little !#&%(#*&@#.

The romance is awesome, the mystery is mysterious, the setting is fun (AUSTRALIA I LOVE YOU), the characters are the absolute best, and the words will have you rolling on the floor laughing. Why are you not already reading this?

Note: In Australia, and possibly a few other countries, this book is titled Finding Cassie Crazy. Which makes sense, because part of how they're trying to save Cassie is to prove she's sane. Which... who knows? It may be true! You'll have to read to find out!



  1. I would just like to second everything you've said about this book! I read it back in high school and at the time I considered it one of my favorites. I absolutely love her use of letters, notes, etc. And she pulls it off SO well. I would definitely recommend this to contemporary fans.

    1. I read it in high school also, and it just blew me away. It's so incredibly funny I can't even handle it.

  2. On a vaguely related note: a bunch of bloggers have been raving about Aussie YA recently-ish, but I am so clueless about the, er, category? Can you do some sort of post about must-read Aussie books or something, or why you think Australian YA writers get such a cult following but not French or South African or something, I dunno. I'm sure I've read some at some point, but author nationality is the sort of thing that I don't pay attention to...

    1. Hmm, I think it's because there are so many Australian YA authors. It's sort of this whole untapped resource of YA that is only slowly starting to make it's way to the US. Not to say there aren't amazing French or South African YA writers, but it's a pretty thriving industry in Australia in particular. I think. It's a good question, though!

      And it's not so much the author nationality, it's the setting. TYoSA is set in Sydney, which makes it feel more unique and a lot more fun (for me). So it's not so much that Moriarty is Australian, but that her book is.

  3. This sounds like such a fun book! I've heard of it before, but hadn't checked it out. Perhaps it's time I take another look at it, especially since you've enjoyed it a lot :)


Note: comments on posts older than 90 days are automatically moderated, so they won't show up here immediately. Thanks for commenting! :)